Here are some of the issues set to be on the EU’s plate next year.
Post-Brexit problems in Northern Ireland
Six years on from the Brexit referendum and a year since the UK’s divorce from the EU took effect, the issue is still taking up a significant amount of time in Brussels.
The main sticking point is around trade issues in Northern Ireland.
Brexit saw London sign up to the Northern Ireland Protocol, which keeps Northern Ireland — part of the UK — in the European Union’s single market for goods.
Brussels wants regulatory control on what comes into the single market, so the protocol saw checks imposed on goods arriving into Northern Ireland from the British mainland.
So, to avoid a border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, Brexit created a de-facto frontier in the Irish Sea.
London, despite signing up to the agreement, claims the protocol has burdened businesses with extra paperwork.
The UK wants to renegotiate the protocol, something Brussels has rejected. In late 2021, the can was kicked down the road into 2022.
But both sides are hoping for a swift agreement.
“I think that in the case of Northern Ireland, knowing the history, knowing how difficult the last four or five years have been I think we should be very responsible for what we are putting on the table,” European Commission vice-president, Maros Sefcovic, who leads the Brexit negotiations for the bloc, said.
“Do we want to re-run the whole negotiating process? Do we want to push for the measures that will deprive Northern Ireland of the exclusive, unique opportunity to be on both markets at the same time? Do we want to bring this polarising issue back to the dramatic political debate? I think that we should do better. I’m sure that we could do better, and I am ready for that.”
The European Green Deal
The European Green Deal is Brussels’ flagship policy to make the EU climate neutral by 2050.
Ursula von der Leyen’s European Commission is in the midst of proposing new legislation to achieve this goal.
In 2022, a new proposal on CO2 emissions for heavy-duty vehicles is expected to come out.
Squabbles over the energy transition are also set to come to the fore.
The role of nuclear energy will also feature heavily in the discussions. EU countries will be fighting over the best energy mix, with Germany and Belgium phasing out nuclear, while France is pushing its eco-credentials.
The EU could well usher in a new era for tech giants in 2022.
The growing concern over the role of social media in polarising communities and spreading disinformation has meant the EU is fast-tracking legislation to rein companies like Meta, previously known as Facebook.
The Digital Services Act and Digital Markets Act are a top priority for the six-month French presidency of the EU starting in January, as President Emmanuel Macron has already stated. The French president wants to “transform Europe into a digital power”